St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., a clinical leader in pediatric oncology, is by necessity a fund-raising powerhouse. Despite having just 56 beds, it provides a huge level of charity care for needy families. It has 13 regional fund-raising offices and ties to some 30,000 charity events, collecting more than two-thirds of its $451 million in total revenue last year from donations. But the hospital's superstar status occasionally attracts some unwanted help in soliciting funds.
After being notified that a stuntman plans to perform an eight-day spectacle to benefit children at St. Jude, the fund-raising arm of the facility is consulting its legal department to see if the hospital can take the money, expected to be as much as $80,000 after expenses.
"We would not be allowed to sanction this event because it's too dangerous," says Nikia Johnson, associate director at a regional office in Nashville.
Unfortunately, a secretary in a Georgia regional office didn't get the corporate memo on sanctioning potentially dangerous events. She told the Associated Press that the hospital approved the event, saying, "He's a very unique gentleman."
So what's the problem? The stuntman, Johnny Sands, 58, plans to submerge himself in a glass-top stainless steel casket under 600 gallons of water for eight days in a county fairground in Indiana to benefit St. Jude. "My heart tells me to do things that my body doesn't always agree with," Sands says. "I'm going down to lift these children up in recognition."
The aging daredevil, who lives in Nashville, says he will take safety precautions that include an intercom system in the coffin. Also, in an emergency, he can be out of the coffin less than two minutes after the tank is emptied. Sands will be out of the tank for about two hours each night to eat, drink, exercise and use the bathroom.
This has Outliers busy trying to erase all these mental images.
We're still here
With the Democratic National Convention that will hit Boston at the end of the month promising snarled traffic and limited public transportation, one hospital system has set out to assuage consumers' fears that they may not have access to a hospital, and hopes to drum up new business in the process.
Hallmark Health in suburban Melrose, Mass., has been running an advertising campaign to lure patients leery of trying to get around Boston during the convention being held July 26-29. A number of streets in the city will be closed and public transportation will be curtailed during the evening hours when the convention is in full swing.
"Our point was to make people feel relaxed that they can come to someplace local," says Kelly Woodsum, senior marketing manager at 235-bed Hallmark, which runs Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. Both hospitals are about seven miles outside of Boston.
Ambulances carrying patients in need of emergency care will, of course, still be able to carry them to the appropriate facilities regardless of what streets may be closed to traffic. But those who may be expecting to a deliver baby or want to have elective surgery during the convention can try to schedule procedures at a Hallmark hospital. The hospitals will have extra staff on call. Some doctors even canceled their vacation plans for the week in anticipation of a need for extra capacity. Woodsum, however, says there has been no spike in bookings in either the maternity ward or elective surgery departments.
The ad campaign includes billboards and about 11,000 stress relievers Hallmark has also been handing out. The squeeze toys are bipartisan, coming in the shape of donkeys, elephants and hearts.
Buenos Aires or bust
Ever feel the urge to fly to Argentina to learn the tango? How about getting some breast implants?
Now you can do both-at the same time, more or less-thanks to Plenitas, a Buenos Aires-based outfit that has launched the latest in "medical tourism," offering such high-tech healthcare services as breast augmentation and hair transplants as the highlight of a South American holiday.
The company says it provides these services through alliance agreements with 17 leading medical clinics, hospitals and health centers whose procedures, technology and treatments all are equal to U.S. and European standards, the promoters say. Its most popular package: the combination breast implant-tango trip, which includes a seven-day excursion complete with first-class hotel accommodations, five private Spanish lessons, group dance lessons each day and silicone implants. The cost: $2,950 (not including airfare).
Alec Rosen, a spokesman for Plenitas, says this new "medical-tourism trend" is being fueled by the globalization of healthcare and the high costs of many procedures in the U.S. and Europe. With the favorable exchange rate in Argentina, he said, women can save up to 50% on breast implants and enjoy a fun-filled vacation in exotic Buenos Aires to boot.
"You're buying the same services and getting a much deeper discount," he said. "People are looking for healthcare alternatives."
In addition to the breast implant-tango tandem, Plenitas also offers medical-tourism packages that pair a South American vacation with nose surgery, gastric bands, hair transplants and angioplasty, among other procedures. Rosen says the company is receiving scores of inquires from U.S. residents and books about 10 trips per month for Americans looking for deals on everything from tummy tucks to cheek implants.
"We offer Argentina like no other travel provider, with packaged tours and customized trips to allow the medical tourist to embark on self-improvement through cosmetic and other surgery and self-discovery through the wonders of Argentina," says Roberto Gawianski, chief executive officer and co-founder of Plenitas.